The Royals are embarking on the last month of this dreadful season, and with that will come decisions on who should be called up when rosters expand in September. Many factors go into that decision, such as performance and weighing whether or not the player will be rushed. But one big factor will be the 40-man roster.
The Royals may not want to add a player to the 40-man roster before they have to, to keep spots open for players they need to protect from the Rule 5 draft this December. College players drafted in 2015 or earlier and high school and international players signed in 2014 or earlier are eligible to be selected in the Rule 5 draft if they are not protected on the 40-man roster. So a player like Nicky Lopez who has been outstanding this year and is already up to AAA may not get a look because the team would have to carry him on the 40-man roster all winter (the only way to remove him is to designate him for assignment, which could expose him to waivers).
Here is the 40-man roster, which is currently full.
Catchers: Drew Butera, Cam Gallagher, Salvador Perez, Meibrys Viloria
Infielders: Hunter Dozier, Lucas Duda, Samir Duenez, Alcides Escobar, Kelvin Gutierrez, Whit Merrifield, Adalberto Mondesi, Ryan O’Hearn, Ramon Torres
Outfielders: Jorge Bonifacio, Brian Goodwin, Alex Gordon, Rosell Herrera, Paulo Orlando, Brett Phillips, Bubba Starling
Pitchers: Jason Adam, Scott Barlow, Danny Duffy, Heath Fillmyer, Brian Flynn, Jason Hammel, Tim Hill, Jakob Junis, Brad Keller, Ian Kennedy, Jorge Lopez, Andres Machado, Brandon Maurer, Kevin McCarthy, Jake Newberry, Trevor Oaks, Wily Peralta, Burch Smith, Glenn Sparkman, Eric Stout
60-day DL: Cheslor Cuthbert, Jesse Hahn, Nate Karns, Eric Skoglund, Jorge Soler
Those five players on the 60-day disabled list will have to be activated once the season is over, and Soler is likely to be activated in September anyway. Players eligible for free agency - Butera, Escobar, Hammel, and Duda - will open up some spots when they file after the World Series. Maurer, Orlando, Hahn, and Karns are potential non-tender candidates that could open up a few more spots. Others who could be taken off the 40-man roter include Andres Machado, Eric Stout, and possibly even Bubba Starling.
If the Royals can open up some spots, who are candidates to be added?
Will almost certainly be added
Josh Staumont is the most obvious player to be added. The 24-year old still has his 100 mph fastball and has struck out 99 hitters in 73 innings so far, but he continues to have major control issues with 50 free passes issued this year. He was pretty inconsistent and was pretty much a reliever this year, but his 3.82 ERA in Omaha wasn’t terrible, and he’d be a very attractive Rule 5 pick if he was left unprotected.
Foster Griffin is coming off an underwhelming season in AA Northwest Arkansas with a 5.05 ERA, but the former first-round pick is probably still one of the club’s top pitching prospects, which should tell you something about the state of the farm system. Griffin is a lefty with a bit of a pedigree, so he would be at some risk of being taken, so the Royals seem likely to add him to the roster.
The Royals have a decision to make
Scott Blewett had pretty similar numbers to Griffin at AA, but is right-handed, which could leave him unprotected. The 22-year old has never put up eye-popping numbers and his peripherals have declined each year, which could leave him off the roster.
Bryan Brickhouse had Tommy John surgery and retired, only to discover yoga and stage a comeback. He now throws 100 mph and posted a 2.15 ERA with 37 strikeouts in 29 1⁄3 innings for Wilmington only to get pounded after being promoted to AA. The 26-year old might be an interesting reclamation project for someone, so the Royals may want to hang onto that big fastball and hope he can stay healthy.
Frank Schwindel went unprotected last year, and was not selected in the Rule 5 draft despite a strong season in Omaha. The first baseman is a year older now, and while he put up good numbers in AAA, they were down from his 2017 stats. He improved his walk and strikeout numbers this year, but with Ryan O’Hearn playing well, it is not clear if the 26-year old Schwindel fits in the Royals’ future plans. For what it’s worth, beat writer Jeffrey Flanagan thinks it is a given Schwindel will be added and called up for September.
Probably won’t be added
D.J. Burt isn’t a top prospect and played in High A ball, which would make him a big stretch to get selected in the Rule 5 draft. However the 22-year old second baseman has some of the best plate discipline in the system, and can fly around the bases, which could make him an attractive bench piece for a team. Burt has little power and struggled offensively before hitting .295/.380/.383 this year in Wilmington.
Donnie Dewees held a lot of promise when he was acquired from the Cubs as a future leadoff hitter who could draw walks. After a decent season in AA Northwest Arkansas last year, he had trouble repeating his performance this year, and didn’t hit much better after being promoted to Omaha. Dewees will turn 25 in late September, and is looking more like a fourth outfielder, which wouldn’t require them to protect him in the Rule 5 draft.
Jecksson Flores popped up on the radar this year with a strong season in Northwest Arkansas, batting .315/.362/.436. He has good speed and has been versatile enough to play all over the infield, even playing some outfield this year. He is 24-years old, so not young enough to have much upside, but another club may see him as a useful bench player.
Gerson Garabito is a groundball pitcher who had shoulder issues in 2017. He put up a 3.32 ERA in a full season this year, although in the pitcher-friendly stadium in Wilmington. The Royals will have to look at his high rate of 4.7 walks-per-nine innings and determine if the 22-year old right hander is worth shielding from other clubs.
Arnaldo Hernandez was way off the radar, but was promoted two levels up to Omaha this year, where he held his own. His peripherals are underwhelming, but his velocity has increased to the mid-90s, according to Clint Scoles at Baseball Prospectus Kansas City, which could account for the Royals promoting him despite lackluster numbers.
Jake Kalish is a 27-year old lefty without a big fastball, but some teams may be interested in his outstanding control. In 116 2⁄3 innings across AA and AAA this year, he walked just 17 while striking out 112.
Yunior Marte went undrafted last year, but the 23-year old right-hander went out and had a strong season in AA, which could put him on some radars. Marte has some mid-90s velocity and has missed bats, it will be command that teams will question.
Rudy Martin could be the next Jarrod Dyson with his ability to draw walks and his blazing speed. However, he hit just .224/.341/.350 in Wilmington, a long way from the big leagues. A team would only take him expecting to use him as a pinch-runner, a luxury most teams can’t afford to make with their roster.
Others: Jonathan Dziedzic was a solid lefty starter for Omaha, but is 27 and went undrafted last year. Pedro Fernandez doesn’t have eye-popping stuff but the 24-year old right-hander seems to get results at every level, although with low upside. Xavier Fernandez has shown a good bat for a catcher, batting .281/.325/.442 in 65 games, but the Royals already have Cam Gallagher and Meibrys Viloria on the roster. Sam Selman struck out 58 hitters in just 39 2⁄3 innings but had too many walks and is too inconsistent at age 27. Former promising players like Ricky Aracena, Marten Gasparini, and Chase Vallot haven’t done enough for teams to be interested in them.